Being a Jerk: Part I


Dr. John Van Epp PhD is the author of the book, How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk: The Foolproof Way to Follow Your Heart without Losing Your Mind. He also travels to give lectures about the practice and application that the book entails. He is also the President and founder of LoveThinks, LCC. This company was created to help promote healthy marriages and individuals. Over the years he has been able to do a lot of research on individuals, premarital, marriage, and family relationships.

Starting out, you’re probably wondering why this book would be of any significance to you if you are already married. I too, am married but I still think that this book and research can be very helpful to us and our relationships. I think the first question that comes to my mind is about this book is, “Am I being a jerk in my marriage”? The next question would be “Is my spouse being a jerk in our marriage”?

What is a Jerk?

So in order to answer those two questions that we both might be wondering is to understand what a jerk really is. We all have our own definitions about what a jerk is or can be. Dr. John Van Epp explains in his book and through his lectures that a jerk is someone who has negative attributes. Some of these attributes can include narcissism, selfishness, being unreliable, being rude, dishonest, doesn’t listen and so on.

Criteria that Jerks Meet

The first thing he said about identifying a jerk is to see whether or not they are breaking boundaries. The book suggests that two of the biggest boundary breakers are players and space invaders.

The second trait a jerk can have is if they can see things the ways other people do. Meaning they will only see their own perspective and no one else’s. Dr. John Van Epp says (2007), “But after a person fails to recognize your perspective several times, a pattern emerges… This pattern is what becomes so difficult to handle in a long-term relationship. You feel a void of never being understood or validated” (p. 18, 19).

Lastly, the third feature a jerk can have is a big lack of balancing emotions. These people are very extreme whether it be the more outgoing and loud personality or the easygoing personality.

Who can be a Jerk?

So, just your spouse can be a jerk, right? Wrong. You can be one too. Anyone can be and act like a jerk. Dr. John Van Epp has stated that (2007), “Jerks have no gender…A jerk can be either a man or a woman” (p. 17, 29).

Acting vs. Being

Okay, so you might be a little worried because you might be thinking, “Well I’ve done at least some of these things in my relationship with my spouse! That makes me a jerk”? A memory might have popped into your head about you being selfish or a time you may have not been listening to your spouse can be making you feel guilty.

Fear not, Dr. John Van Epp stated (2007), “No one earns the right to be called a jerk from merely acting like on once or twice. If we are honest, all of us act like jerks now and then” (p. 17). Good news, we are all allowed to have bad days which in turn might lead to us acting like a jerk. Acting like a jerk is completely different from being a jerk. The difference is that true, real jerks are persistent and do not and will not change. They do not want to change no matter how many times they’ve been told they needed to.

a jerk has a core resistance to change

How to Change if You’re a Jerk

Change can be very difficult, especially this kind of life altering kind of change. But it is so worth it, for you, your relationship and kids if you have them. Although this change is worth it from being a jerk to not being a jerk, it can be very hard. According to Dr. John Van Epp (2007), “If it is possible to reform a jerk, it will almost always require a major life crisis or life-transforming event” (p. 17). He also mentioned that the longer you or someone else has been a jerk, the harder it is to get away from that lifestyle. So you really need to have the desire to be different. You need to be aware of your actions towards other people and thoughts.


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Photo Credit

Photo Credit


Epp, J. V. (2008). How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk: The Foolproof Way to Follow Your Heart without Losing Your Mind. New York: McGraw-Hill.


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